The Tucson Sugar Skulls narrowly defeated the Duke City Gladiators 41-40 on Saturday to end a five-game losing streak in a game that came down to the last minute.
Tucson has routinely found ways to lose games this season but reversed that trend just as it looked as if another game was about to slip through its fingers.
On the possession after recovering a squib kick that bounced off a Tucson lineman, Duke City’s Nate Davis found Jared Elmore for a 7-yard touchdown reception that put the Gladiators up 40-33 with 56 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Sugar Skulls recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, and four plays later, Demry Croft completed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Mike Jones that put Tucson down by one with eight seconds remaining in the game.
After Duke City was penalized twice, Tucson head coach Dixie Wooten opted to go for a two-point conversion, and Croft took it to the end zone on a quarterback keeper to put the Sugar Skulls up 41-40.
Eight seconds is all the time in the world in the IFL, and the Gladiators had one more shot at victory on the following possession when a 45-yard field goal attempt by Daniel Bowen – who was on Tucson’s roster just weeks ago before being released – deflected off the PA speakers hanging from the Tucson Convention Center’s ceiling as time expired.
After the game, Wooten explained why he decided to go for two in the waning seconds of regulation instead of attempting an extra-point that would have tied the game.
“I was just gonna go for the extra-point because if we went to overtime, I felt like we was at home, and we could wear them out a little bit,” Wooten said. “But when they got two flags, you know, really it wasn’t my call because I still had an extra-point on my mind but when I looked to the sideline I saw my whole entire offense come to the wall and say ‘go for two.’, I had no choice but to go for two.”
Mike Jones, who was a catalyst for the team’s success on offense with five touchdowns, explained why the team was collectively urging Wooten to go for two on Tucson’s final possession.
“We talked about it all week: team,” Jones said. “We just felt we came together as a team and we felt that we gotta go for two and we would win the game, that’s a good thing he called it too – we wanted to go for two.”
Jones rushed for 43 yards on 14 carries and had four touchdowns on the ground. He was also Croft’s top receiving target with three catches for 15 yards and a touchdown
Croft completed 9 of 16 passing attempts for 55 yards with two touchdowns. He rushed for 45 yards on 10 carries.
Juju Augustine had two catches for 12 yards and a touchdown.
Delano Boyd led the Sugar Skulls with 6 tackles.
The Sugar Skulls (2-6) play next Saturday against the Spokane Shock (5-2) on the road. Kickoff is at 5:10 p.m. Tucson time.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. He is currently attending Pima Community College where he writes for the Aztec Press. Next semester he will be attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he will work towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.